Improving School Education
Hira Bahadur Thapa
With the start of new academic year in Baisakh, the government has initiated a campaign for enrolling students of school-going age in the community schools. This campaign has been launched country-wide to ensure that community schools do not have shortage of students. Apparently, the government initiative looks fine. However, this approach alone cannot address the problem of students in the community schools. There is a link between this problem and the deterioration of educational quality of the public schools. The parents, whose children go to such schools, are not confident of schools’ academic performance.
The results of the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) establish the fact that a large majority of community schools are failing miserably. Even those who pass the examination score lower grades. Hence, most of them are not eligible for pursuing science course in further studies. This reality of public schools has to be admitted without hesitation. An impartial review of the problem reveals that a number of factors are involved that play roles in determining the teaching standards of the schools. Some of them include teachers, management committees and the parents.
The government has to take responsibility for the composition of school management committees. In the name of giving back the managerial authority of the schools to the public, committees have been left unsupervised. Under the federal structure the local bodies like rural municipalities or municipalities have been entrusted the responsibility of managing schools within their jurisdiction. Seen from the lens of devolution of power and the spirit of federalism, this arrangement may be perfect.
But one should not overlook the fact that our local bodies and the elected officials are not very much familiar with the nitty gritty of running the administration of school. There may be some exceptions. The recent example of conducting Secondary Education Examination itself exposes our abilities in the concerned field. A lot of efforts would be needed to enhance the capabilities of our newly elected people’s representatives. With necessary training and support from the concerned government agencies the local bodies can acquire skills to handle their new responsibilities properly. We cannot expect them to take up additional duties efficiently without providing them due opportunities to enhance their capabilities.
More importantly, the people’s representatives should display the strong will power to take measures that help reform the community schools. Should they be sincere to their promises and pledges they have made to serve the people, there is no reason why community schools cannot be reformed. This reform has to be understood against the background of the need for educational quality enhancement. The issue of falling teaching standards is crucial to increasing the students in community schools. Once the parents believe that these schools provide their children quality education, they need no persuasion to send the students to the schools.
There is no doubt that teaching standards in the public schools have been falling for several decades. One of the most important roles for this has been played by the teachers. As in the bureaucracy the teachers have been misusing their freedom to form their unions and through them they have become more powerful than the government. They are not accountable to the school, the management committee and the government. Unionised teachers defy all norms and regulations as they do not have to fear anyone for their irresponsible behaviour. When no one takes responsibility for the failing students, how can we expect the schools to perform better academically?
It may be unfair to put all blame on the teachers for what is happening in the community schools. The parents are not upholding their responsibilities too, as they should have been. They do not see the investment in public school as their own. The government has given this wrong impression by making the school education free.
From the perspectives of people’s welfare, it may be logical for the government to provide free education to the citizens. Considering the low productivity of the community schools, one reasonable question can be asked. Whether it is fully justified to allocate billions of rupees to these institutions, where the percentage of failing students in the examination goes up every year.
When the parents feel that their own money is not wasted as they do not pay any fees, they have become indifferent to what is happening in the community schools. This is their misconception because public funds are raised out the taxes they pay. With falling standards the community schools cannot be attractive to any parent to send their children there. Under these prevailing circumstances, any campaign we launch to persuade the people to send the students to such schools is tantamount to propaganda.
If we can make teachers accountable to their duty, there will be improvement in the teaching environment. Accountability here means taking up classes regularly with prior preparation and ensuring that students are taught well. Teachers should be held responsible for students’ inability to get through the examination. Sincerity on the part of the teachers is a key factor. There is certainly a moral issue involved. In the eyes of a teacher all students should be the same regardless of their physical relationship with him or her.
There is strong evidence that our community school teachers have lost faith in themselves. Were it not so, why would they not admit their children in their schools? They send their children to the private schools for giving them better education. They have indirectly induced the parents to follow their suit.
Therefore, the local bodies, which are empowered to administer schools in the areas of their jurisdiction, should enact regulations requiring all community school teachers to admit their children into the schools they are teaching. If such provisions are enforced then the teachers would be more sincerely committed to shoulder their teaching responsibilities. This would definitively pave the way for improvement in teaching learning environment in the schools. With quality of teaching going up in the schools, the parents would be self-motivated to send their children to these schools.